West-Nile, Uganda 

West-Nile region is located in the upper north-western part of Uganda. The region stretches from the northern shores of Lake Albert till the South-Sudanese border. It lies between the White Nile river and The Eastern Ituri border of the DRC and is geographically more related to north-eastern DRC than Northern Uganda. West-Nile was invaded firstly by Arab slave traders from Turco-Egyptian Sudan before it was taken over by western imperial armies. West-Nile region was originally part of the ‘’Lado Enclave’’, named after the town Lado, a river port in South-Sudan within the former Congo Free State. The enclave covered roughly the area of North-Eastern Congo, Northern Uganda and Southern equatorial Sudan. In 1910, when the Belgium King Leopold died, the region came under control of the Anglo-Egyptians after the Anglo-German treaty of 1890 which outcome divided the region and borders as it is nowadays. In 1915 the new boundaries of the Ugandan protectorate were officially recognized by the two colonial powers of the region, Belgium and Britain. For the British the inclusion of West-Nile within their protectorate meant they regain control of the Nile river from its source in Uganda up to Cairo, Egypt. The Lado enclave (including West-Nile region) was famous for its wildlife abundance. As Mark Leopold stated in his book Inside West-Nile; ‘’The Lado became a playground, and a killing ground, for white adventurers, the last place in Africa in which unrestricted, unregulated, elephant hunting was possible’’. 

Map 1: Kingdom of Lado/Lado Enclave

The history of West-Nile can be seen as dynamic and violent. In the book named ‘’Inside West-Nile’’ by Mark Leopold (2005), is written that the region is seen by outsiders as a violent and dangerous place or better said; marginalized and brutal (Leopold Mark, 2005). As a result, the colonial army recruited many soldiers from the region for the King’s African Rifles. Probably the most famous person originating from West-Nile was former president and field marshal Idi Amin who served for many years in the colonial army (The King’s African Rifles). Due to the understanding of West-Nile as a marginalized and brutal place policies and actions didn’t work out in favour of the region. Not mentioning the influence of the Ituri and Sudanese conflicts that had a significant influence on the regional development even today. Due to its location, between the two countries, the local socio-economic situation of West-Nilers (people living in West-Nile region) was and is always influenced by the cross-border dynamics (commodity trade and migration). West-Nile can be seen as a multi ethnic region, the predominant ethnic groups living in the region are the Alur in the south, the Lugbara in the middle and west, the Kakwa in the North West, and the Madi in the east covering the Nile river plains. The one thing they all have in common is that their ancestral boundaries are international in nature. The Alur and Lugbara are both living in Uganda and the DRC as for the Kakwa their lands are in the DRC, South-Sudan and Uganda. For that reason, the West-Nilers are inseparably connected with their ethnic brothers and sisters across the contemporary borders made up by the colonial rulers in the early 20th century.        

Map 2: West-Nile region with districts and overall location within Uganda and continental Africa
Source: http://galleryhip.com/west-region.html




Cross border dynamics and trade in West-Nile

The regional cross border trade is besides agricultural production one of the main economic drivers of West-Nile, this is mainly due to its location between North-East Congo and South-Sudan. Ugandan traders are primarily involved and in power of the trade flows and networks. This is a result of a strong movement of refugees in the region in the past 30 to 40 years. The refugee movement was provoked due to a fear of revenge after Idi Amin was removed from power in 1979. Most of the West-Nilers, predominantly the Kakwa people, fled to neighbouring countries. During the 80s most of the Kakwa’s lived in exile for five up to ten years. Similarly, the civil wars in Sudan forced many Sudanese to take refuge in northern Uganda as well did the eastern Congolese who had to flee for the civil war in Ituri, DRC (Titeca, 2009). 
The interviews which are carried out with several key persons within Koboko district indicates the trade of mainly food commodities between Yei and Juba (South-Sudan) has an increasingly bigger impact on the local economy. Not only in terms of cash influx, but also in terms of household food-security. According, the DCO the strong trade linkages between Koboko and the towns in Sudan have led to additional prosperity within Koboko town. Cash which is derived from commodity trade is invested in construction projects and used for daily household expenditure. These developments have shown their benefits for the region on the one hand, on the other hand there is a tendency that high nutritious food crops are sold and traded outside the region. The side effect of this ‘outflow’ is an increasing household food insecurity which have led to health risks such as malnutrition amongst children in poor families. The DHO gives as a reason that the need for household cash is pushing families to sell their best tradable crops on the market which means that fruits and vegetables are not, or partly available in their diets. Furthermore, the DHO and some of the interviewed elders are telling stories about the linkages between an increase of substance abuse and spread of sexually transmitted diseases by traders. 





Past and current changes in Koboko district

Based on the interviews done with several groups and individual village elders a general idea of the regional history can be made. In the past decade several researchers have identified and investigated the dynamic and violent history of the region. Combining the analysis of researchers and the stories of the elders gives insights in how past changes are still resonating, as well influencing, the current livelihood situation of communities and individual households. During the field study an intermediate conclusion was that the Elders where referring to: ‘’those days’’, the time before a certain change occurred. After conducting several interviews including analysing the interviews together with the research team the intermediate conclusion was the fact that all the responding Elders referred to the period of exile in the 80s. This period had, according to them, a strong influence on their livelihoods. Especially, the abundance of resources and the population density where topics that came forward during the conversations in the different villages within the Koboko sub-counties. Furthermore, the downfall of their ‘’status and power’’ within their communities was a significant issue, next to a trend of losing the kakwa culture and traditions due to foreign influences. 

Table 1: Historical time-line of conflicts which had an impact on the Kakwa people

National context

After years of civil wars, Uganda became gradually stable under the rule of current president Yoweri Museveni. In 1992 the poverty rate of the Ugandan people was countrywide around 56% of the population. During the years that followed poverty was reduced to 24.5 per cent of the population in 2009 (IFAD, report on Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty in Uganda, 2013). The report argues that the percentage went down significantly, however due to population increase over the last 20 years the absolute number of people living in poverty has increased. Especially, in the rural areas where 84 per cent of Ugandans live, around 27 per cent still live below the national rural poverty line. Roughly speaking about 8 million people. According the IFAD, the most vulnerable are living in remote regions in the north- and eastern parts of the country where access to transport, infrastructure and market linkages are weak or even not existing. In those areas 40 up to 60 per cent of the population is consistently living in poverty. The reason for that is the violent history of West-Nile region and Acholi-land in central north. Both regions are having peace for about a decade only since the Lord Resistance Army of Joseph Kony left the area after years of fighting and human rights violations. In the case of West-Nile the region faced several out breaks of rebel fights within the region after Idi Amin was removed from power. Furthermore, the conflicts in DRC (Ituri conflict) and South-Sudan have resulted in a disruption of the entire regional development which is not limited by the national boundaries. 
According to IFAD, the majority of the poor rural people live in fragile dry and sub-humid regions where the variability of rainfall and soil fertility make farming a daily challenge. Most households fall short in providing minimum household needs. As a result, their household is prone to food insecurity. The problem is strengthened by the fact of climate change and resulting extreme climate events and unpredicted rainfall. The impact of increased droughts, floods and variable precipitation cycles is significant and threatens water, natural resources, agricultural production and rural livelihoods. 
In the case of health and social issues the county is facing some real challenges. The current population is around 36 million and is growing with an annual rate of 3.4 per cent. The country had reduced HIV/AIDS significantly since the 1990s. However, the rates of infected began rising again in the recent years. According, to IFAD it caused death amongst large numbers of young adults and made 1.2 million children orphans. Especially for women the lack of health care and social services is a disadvantage since they work for longer hours than men. Furthermore, women are facing a double burden of ensuring household food security and the care of the sick, the elderly and orphaned children. For that reason, the United Nations Development Programme’s human development index ranked Uganda 161st out of 187 countries in the Low Human Development category.       


Defining Informal Cross Border Trade (ICBT)

ICBT has not a clear universal definition since it can occur in different forms (Nkendah, 2010) for example; unrecorded trade, illegal trade, unofficial trade, underground trade, part of parallel market activity, the activities of black market, trade subject of over-and under-invoicing, smuggling or hoarding. To be short, ICBT can be best characterized by its non-inclusion in the national account of a country or region in terms of its domestic and International trade (Aryeetey, 2009) and includes the previous mentioned dimensions. In the Africa Economic Brief (Jean-Guy, et al,2012) it refers to trade in processed or non-processed merchandise which may be legal imports or exports on one side of the border and illicit on the other side. Important to know is the coexistence of ICBT (unrecorded) together with FCBT (recorded). This is a result of the significant socio-economic importance of ICBT’s in especially sub-Saharan Africa.  


Cross-border informal traders

Several baseline surveys done in Sub-Saharan Africa indicate a majority of woman participating in cross-border trade. According to United Nations Department for Women fact sheet, 60 percent of the informal traders in central Africa are female. Traders are engaging in ICBT as a source of income and economic activity. A majority of the traders do not have education and raise capital from own resources or through loans from friends or relatives. Most traders are not bankable or have assets banks will accept as collateral. On the other hand, traders can be formally registered firms avoiding border post formalities, regulations and taxes. The following figure shows the types of traders which are divided in three categories (Jean-Guy, et al, 2012).